Winn Army Community Hospital Commander Col. Ronald Place told the Hinesville Rotary Club on Tuesday that the hospital’s focus is on individual patients and improving their access to health care.
Place took the reins at Winn in mid-July. The colonel came to Fort Stewart after a two-year command at Ireland Army Community Hospital at Fort Knox, Ky. Place is board-certified in general and colorectal surgery.
“He is the author of nearly 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters,” Rotarian Brigitte Cabeza-Shanken said when introducing the new Winn commander. Cabeza-Shanken, a local realtor, also is the director of volunteer services at Winn.
Place opened his talk by thanking community leaders for collaborating with Fort Stewart and for making Hinesville and Liberty County “a military-friendly community.”
Then the Winn commander became more serious, outlining the challenges facing the military and consequently Winn Army Community Hospital. Place alluded to the recent debt crisis, saying the defense department’s budget could be cut by $400 billion during the next decade.
“We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to continue to take care of our soldiers and their families with a lot less money,” he said.
Place said “feel-good” types of services will end. Instead, Winn will enhance its health and wellness programs.
“It’s all about access,” he said.
Another of the commander’s priorities will be improved behavioral care.
“We’re trying to build resiliency in our soldiers,” Place said. Resiliency is a challenge when active-duty military and their family members may be struggling with marital, financial or substance-abuse issues, along with deployment-related stresses, he said.
Place said support hasn’t always happened “in the right way” as evidenced by the incidence of suicides in the Army.
“One suicide is too many,” he said.
Along with improving behavioral-health services, Place said there are plans to improve muscular-skeletal medicine at Winn by providing such services as occupational therapy.
The Winn commander also said he wants to partner with community leaders.
“We’re doing our best and will keep making an effort to get better every day … with you help,” he said.
Developing trust with patients also is mandatory, he said.
“If you (the patient) don’t trust the providers on your way … to the operating room, we’ve already lost,” Place said.
The colonel said Winn, its clinics and the Warrior Transition Battalion have a combined total of 1,900 medical and support staff and wounded warriors among the hospital population. Place said one-third of Winn personnel are active-duty military and two-thirds are civilian.
He also touted Winn’s recent additions, including the Women’s Health Center, and construction on barracks and a headquarters building for the Warrior in Transition complex. Place estimates the project will be complete in about 15 months. The colonel also announced that a 65,000-square-foot expansion to the hospital will begin this month. The work will start at the outpatient clinic entrance, he said.